The 2017 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off on Saturday in Gabon with the Super Eagles missing after failing to qualify for the third time in five years. In this piece, Completesportsnigeria.com's JAMES AGBEREBI relives at how Nigeria missed out on past AFCON editions…
–1957 and 1959 AFCON (Nigeria did not enter)
Nigeria did not enter for the 1957 and 1959 editions of the Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Sudan and the United Arab Republic (now known as Egypt). Egypt went on to win both AFCONS, becoming the first team to win the tournament back-to-back.
–1962 AFCON (Withdrew)
Nigeria eventually entered the qualification race for the 1962 AFCON which was hosted by Ethiopia. In the first round of the qualifiers, Nigeria were drawn against Ghana and played 0-0 in the first leg in Lagos. The return leg played in Accra ended 2-2. Edward Acquah and Edward Aggrey-Finn scored for Ghana, while Elkanah Onyeali and Dejo Fayemi were on target for Nigeria. Nigeria progressed into the play-off round at the expense of Ghana following the drawing of lots. The play-off tie pairing pitted Nigeria against Tunisia with the first leg in Lagos ending 2-1 in favour of Nigeria thanks to a brace from Patrick Noquapor. Tunisia's only goal was scored by Ali Klibi. Nigeria took the lead in the second leg in Tunis through Albert Onyeawuna in the 12th minute. Moncef Cherif equalised for Tunisia in the 21st minute. Chukwumah Igweonu restored Nigeria's lead on 25 minutes but Abdelmajid Chetali's leveler for Tunisia on 65 minutes led to a walkout by Nigeria. Tunisia were thus awarded a 2–0 win, and qualified for the 1962 AFCON by an aggregate score of 3–2.
–1965 AFCON (Withdrew)
The qualifiers for the 1965 AFCON in Tunisia had Nigeria drawn in Zone 1 with Egypt and Morocco. But before the start of the qualfiers, both Nigeria and Morocco withdrew, thereby paving the way for Egypt to qualify by default. Egypt later also withdrew due to the deterioration of its diplomatic relations with Tunisia following a speech in Jericho by Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba, who called on the Arab countries to recognize Israel.
–1968 AFCON (Did not qualify)
Nigeria returned to the qualifiers ahead of the 1968 AFCON staged in Ethiopia and were with Cote d'Ivoire and Togo in Group 3. After four rounds of games (home and away), Nigeria finished second on three points (one win, one loss, two draws) behind group leaders Cote d'Ivoire who had seven points and qualified from Group 3. Togo were third in the group with just two points.
–1970 AFCON (Withdrew)
Just like in the 1962 and 1965 AFCONS, Nigeria withdrew from the 1970 edition held in Sudan. The reason for Nigeria's withdrawal may not be unconnected to the Civil War that engulfed the country from 1967 to 1970.
–1972 AFCON (Did not qualify)
Cameroon hosted the 1972 AFCON with Nigeria taking part in the qualifiers. Unfortunately, Nigeria fell in the first round of the qualifiers to Congo Brazzaville. The first leg in Lagos ended 0-0 before Congo Brazzaville won the reverse fixture 2-1 at home.
–1974 AFCON (Did not qualify)
The first round qualifiers for the 1974 AFCON had Nigeria going up against Sudan. The first leg in Sudan ended 1-1 before Nigeria secured passage into the second round with a 2-1 home win to advance 3-2 on aggregate. But in the play-off, Nigeria got eliminated by Zambia 7-4 on aggregate. Zambia won the first leg 5-1 and lost in the return leg 3-2 but still progressed to the 1974 AFCON.
–1986 AFCON (Did not qualify)
Nigeria had a walkover against Tanzania in the first round of the 1986 AFCON qualifiers but once again fell to Zambia in the play-offs. The first leg ended 0-0 in Nigeria before Zambia won 1-0 in the second leg to qualify 1-0 on aggregate.
–1996 AFCON (Withdrew)
Nigeria won the 1994 AFCON in 1994 in Tunisia which was their second continental title after their triumph in 1980. Unfortunately, due to political issues with 1996 AFCON hosts South Africa, then Head of State General Sani Abacha ordered Nigeria to withdraw. South Africa went on to win their first — and so far only — AFCON title on home soil.
–1998 AFCON (Banned)
Following their withdrawal from the 1996 AFCON, Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) banned Nigeria from participating at the 1998 AFCON in Burkina Faso.
–2012 AFCON (Did not qualify)
After missing the 1998 AFCON, Nigeria went on to appear in six straight AFCONS (2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010). But during the qualifiers for the 2012 edition in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, Nigeria finished second behind Guinea in their group that also had Madagascar and Ethiopia and were eliminated.
–2015 AFCON (Did not qualify)
Nigeria returned to the AFCON in the 2013 edition in South Africa and were crowned champions for the third time. They were grouped with South Africa, Congo Brazzaville and Sudan in the qualfiers. Unfortunately Nigeria could not defend their title at the 2015 AFCON as they finished third behind group winners South Africa and second placed Congo Brazzaville.
–2017 AFCON (Did not qualify)
Nigeria fell behind Egypt in the qualifiers and got eliminated after losing 1-0 to the Pharaohs in Alexandria. A draw in Tanzania and Chad's late withdrawal also affected the Super Eagles' chances.